Cesc Fabregas believes Arsenal "cannot afford" to allow Robin van Persie to follow the Spanish international and Samir Nasri in departing the Emirates Stadium in search of trophies as the uncertainty over the club captain's future continues.
The Dutch international's current deal with Arsenal expires in 20 months' time and the club's admission this week that they do not intend to open discussions over improving his terms until the closing stages of this season raised the prospect of Van Persie entering the final year of his contract with no agreement in place.
Nasri found himself in that position little more than five months ago and Arsenal's determination to not risk losing the Frenchman for nothing at the end of his contract led to the club accepting a £24m bid from Manchester City for one of their most prized players. Fabregas, the 28-year-old's predecessor as captain at the north London club, is adamant Arsenal cannot allow history to repeat itself in the case of Van Persie, whose form over the course of the last 12 months has been the driving factor in keeping the club in touch with the Premier League's elite.
"He is having an amazing season," Fabregas said. "Hopefully he will be fit for the whole season. Unfortunately when I was there, he never enjoyed a whole season and it was one of the things that I regret a little bit. He is a key player. I hope he can keep going like that. I don't know if they will keep him. It is his decision. At his age, if he wants to move it will be his last chance and if he wants to stay he will stay and retire at Arsenal.
"We will see what he decides but he's been very loyal to Arsenal for a few years. He is a key player. The fans love him. For me, he is the role model of Arsenal, the star player and they cannot afford to lose him."
Fabregas maintains that Van Persie would be ideally suited to joining him at Barcelona, where the 24-year-old claims he has regained his smile by playing with his friends, but insists that as "an Arsenal fan," he hopes the Dutchman remains in London beyond the end of his current contract.
"He would fit in anywhere, but I am an Arsenal fan and I want him to stay," Fabregas said. "Things are going very well for me. I am smiling, scoring and playing, and I am with my friends every day. It is like a dream. I know some people thought I would not get in the team. Maybe they did not believe in me so much."